BY NATHAN DUKE
A 35-year-old Long Island man who was a math teacher at a Ridgewood middle school has been sentenced to six months in jail for sending sexually explicit images to an underage girl, the Queens district attorney said.
Michael Cognato, of Bethpage, Long Island, pleaded guilty in March to attempted use of a child in a sexual performance and other charges after he engaged in sexually explicit communications with a 15-year-old girl who had previously been his student. Cognato had also received sexually explicit photos and videos of the girl, Queens DA Richard Brown said.
“This defendant’s actions are very troublesome,” Brown said. “He preyed on this young student whom he had once been entrusted to teach. This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that parents must be mindful of the people their children communicate with online. And let this be a warning to sexual predators that law enforcement is prepared to pursue you just as diligently as you go after young, innocent children.”
Cognato, who had taught math at Ridgewood’s IS 93, pleaded guilty before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris, who sentenced him to six months in jail and 10 years probation on Tuesday. As part of his plea agreement, the defendant has resigned from the city’s Department of Education, surrendered his New York State teaching license and been designated a level-two sex offender—which means that he will be on the sex offender registry for life—and ordered to complete a sex offender program.
Cognato admitted that between July and September 2017, he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the victim and induced her to send him sexually explicit videos and photographs of herself. The defendant also admitted to violating an order of protection by contacting the victim following his arrest.